Written on: September 12th, 2018 in Wetland Assessments
by Alex Thomas, Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program
When I got the call telling me that I had been offered the position of Wetland Field Technician for DNREC I was ecstatic. I would be working outside all summer, assisting on legitimate research projects and working with something I absolutely love. What I didn’t know at that time, was that field work comes with some….challenges.
There are some of the obvious ones like heat and thorny plants, however nobody told me that turkeys like to make nests in shrubs and jump out at you screaming bloody murder as you walk right next to them. Having this experience my second day on the job really set the tone for the rest of the summer.
Like I said before heat was an ever present challenge. I can recall one day we were in the Piney Point salt marsh with no shade, and a heat index of 110 degrees. (When you start sweating through your shirt 15 steps from the car, you know it’s going to be a great day.) Not to mention this particular salt marsh is littered with 3 foot holes hidden under tall swathes of Spartina alterniflora. Traversing this maze of hidden holes carrying all of our field equipment was an experience.
I can only imagine what we must have looked like to a random bystander. Seeing a team of scientists, completely drenched in sweat, walking three steps and sinking into hip deep mud with everything but the top of their heads covered by Spartina must have been hilarious to watch. Taking my first steps out of that marsh that day was nothing short of relief. I would also like to formally apologize on behalf of all of us who used the research van that day. We tried our best to keep it clean.
Everyday this past summer was one filled with excitement, even the days we spent primarily in the office. However, there is one day that will stand out above the rest. One day after finishing our last site of the day, Kenny and I were walking out of the woods back to the car to head back to the office. Everything was going smoothly until I felt a sharp pain in the back of my leg.
I immediately told Kenny that I think I walked through some stinging nettle and that he should be careful. A few steps later I feel more sharp pains and I start looking around frantically trying to find out what’s been stinging me. That is until I look at my finger and see a small black and yellow insect sitting there and the sharp pain I felt in the back of my legs starts to spread through my hand.
At this point I hear Kenny shout “YELLOWJACKETS!” and we start sprinting through the woods and trampling over patches of greenbrier and hurdling downed tree trunks like Olympic athletes, all the while being chased by a swarm of angry yellow jackets. Once out of the woods we were able to regroup and swat off the remaining bugs. All in all I was stung 17 times and had the pleasure of watching my calves and thighs swell up to almost twice their normal size.
Even though these stories may sound scary or dangerous, I wouldn’t change a single thing that happened to me this summer! Summer 2018 has been a summer to remember. I will never forget the experiences I gained working for DNREC. Not only has this position prepared me for future field work positions, It has opened my eyes to the hard work that goes into assessing and preserving Delaware’s wetland habitats.
Lastly I would like to personally thank everybody that I have worked with this summer. This summer wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting or informative if it wasn’t for all of you. Thank you for allowing me to have this experience with all of you, keep up the good work
This post is part of a series of posts titled “Confessions of a Seasonal”, and is written by a summer seasonal worker of DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program.